Updated: Oct 17, 2019
Raising the Bar for Young Athletes?
By Katherine Stabenow Dahaab, MD
Teri Metcalf McCambridge, MD, FAAP
"Youth - athletes and nonathletes alike - can successfully and safely improve their strength and overall health by participating in a well-supervised program. Trained fitness professionals play an essential role in ensuring proper technique, form, progression of exercises, and safety in this age group." - Dr. Katherine Stabenow Dahaab and Dr. Teri Metcalf McCambridge
Sports Health, Sage Publishing
The National Center for Biotechnology Information, The National Library of Medicine, The National Institute for Health, PubMed Central
MAD Times is linking to this article because confusion seems to persist in our culture about the appropriateness of weight training for children and adolescents, and this article which is well sourced and well written by two sports medicine M.D.'s, does a thorough job of dispelling these lingering misconceptions and furthermore, details weight training's many health benefits for children and adolescents.
The authors point out that injuries associated with young people and weight training, such as back injuries, are much more common in baseball and gymnastics which involve repeated torquing of the spine. More to the point, like most athletic activities, if the curriculum is properly designed and overseen by qualified sports professionals, weight training is not only safe, it offers children and adolescents with a form of exercise that provides a myriad of benefits to both the competitive athlete and those simply seeking fitness and physical development, in other words, all children, preteens, and teens.
In addition to improving young people's strength, athletic performance, and physique, the doctors also cite weight training's positive effects on children's bone density, balance, lipid profiles, fat-free mass, and personal self-esteem. Strength training has other salutary effects for children like improving the number and coordination of their activated motor neurons, as well as their firing rate and pattern. According to the authors, a simple strength training program can greatly reduce the risk of one of sports most devastating injuries, the A.C.L. Also, MAD's coaches have repeatedly been told by trainees, parents, and coaches that the discipline, persistence, and confidence which the youngsters have developed in weight training carry over into other aspects of their lives such as their social lives and academics.
The article also touches on two subjects which are near and dear to MAD's coaches' hearts, in-season training and Olympic-style weight lifting. In the lead article of this issue of the MAD Times , "L.T.A.D. In-season Training and Pregame Workouts," (https://www.madtraining.org/post/long-term-athletic-development-9 ), Mad Coach Ryan Munoz discusses the benefits and necessity of in-season training for youth sports. In this article the authors warn of the hazards of stopping training in order to participate in competitive sports. According to the doctors, once weight training stops, the loss of strength begins immediately and continues at a rate of 3% per week.
With regard to Olympic-style weight lifting, many people including coaches have stigmatized this method of lifting as dangerous for young athletes. The authors explode this myth by explaining that it is competitive Olympic-style weight lifting that is the problem. They further explain that this style of lifting can be used by children and adolescents if proper form and technique are stressed, and if the young athletes are properly supervised.
This is music to the ears of the MAD Staff as the use of Olympic-style lifting technique is essential to MAD's training curriculum. Rather than setting goals of loading the Olympic bar with piles of weights, MAD's curriculum focuses on the very thing these doctor/authors recommend, perfecting the athletes' forms and techniques. The philosophy behind this approach is that the Olympic-style weight lifting form and technique are very effective at developing core strength, even in children. MAD coaches often spend weeks with new trainees, both young and old, without any weights on the bar at all simply perfecting their forms and techniques.
The article clears up the uncertainties of weight training for children and adolescents, and it is a must read for athletes, coaches, school administrators, and parents of adolescent children or younger. Weight training can be a safe and beneficial activity for children and adolescents. Doctors Dahab and McCambridge conclude,
"Youth - athletes and nonathletes alike - can successfully and safely improve their
strength and overall health by participating in a well-supervised program. Trained fitness professionals play an essential role in ensuring proper technique, form, progression of exercises, and safety in this age group."